From Patti Smith in American Songwriter:
Poetry is a solitary process. One does not write poetry for the masses. Poetry is a self-involved, lofty pursuit. Songs are for the people. When I’m writing a song, I imagine performing it. I imagine giving it. It’s a different aspect of communication. It’s for the people.
When I read “songs are for the people” and “poetry is a self-involved, lofty pursuit” I feel like puking. But she goes on:
We always write a certain amount of poetry for the masses. When Allen Ginsberg wrote “Howl,” he didn’t write it for himself. He wrote it to speak out. To make a move, to wake people up. I think rock and roll, as our cultural voice, took that energy and made it even more accessible.
When I’m sitting down to write a poem, I’m not thinking of anyone. I’m not thinking about how it will be received. I’m not thinking it will make people happy or it will inspire them. I’m in a whole other world. A world of complete solitude. But when I’m writing a song, I imagine performing it. I imagine giving it. It’s a different aspect of communication. It’s for the people.
Poetry for the people. I’m not sure why that conjures about issues of accessibility and/or direct address but I guess we’re back to that. I’m wondering why “thinking of the people” necessarily means thinking either how it will make them happy, or inspire them. Does thinking of the people happen in rhyming couplets? If poetry is having a complex thought should she hide that away only for other poets, or translate into “people” speak?